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Pa. Police Hope Blood Pegs Vandals at Cemetery

Jan. 17--LEWISBURG -- Someone is sowing some bad karma.

About 10 older tombstones were knocked over -- and one broke in two -- at the historic Lewisburg Cemetery, just off Seventh Street.

Lewisburg police hope a small amount of blood left at the scene will aid their investigation into the vandalism in which the stones either were pushed off their foundations or knocked over.

The broken stone dates back to the 1800s and is believed to be that of a child, said Nancy Neuman, secretary for the association that cares for the cemetery. Some small spots of blood were discovered on one of the stones, said Police Chief Paul Yost, who said police became aware of the vandalism on Jan. 11. Police took samples of the blood for testing. Yost thinks the perpetrator was injured during one of the acts.

Someone notified the association that cares for the 38-acre cemetery about the toppled stones a week or so ago, Neuman said.

The damage costs are not known yet, Neuman said, but she thinks the broken headstone likely isn't repairable. For the other headstones, it's a matter of righting them or securing them in their foundations.

"We never had the money to fix things like that, sadly," Neuman said of the damage, "Hopefully, they can find who did it, and we can get some repairs done through them."

Possible charges include criminal mischief, Yost said, as well as a institutional vandalism, a recently adopted standard that makes it a felony to desecrate a cemetery, mortuary or other facility used for burial.

The charge is a third-class felony, if the loss or damages exceed $5,000, he said.

The Lewisburg Cemetery is private and managed by the eight-member association, Neuman said. There is some income from burials, "but that's about it," she said.

"We try to take care of the place. We do fundraising, and the community is good to us," she said. "They understand we need to give perpetual care to people who died many, many, many generations ago, as well as those that were more recent."

The cemetery was incorporated by an act of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in June 1848 and started at just 6 acres. However, most of the interments from old graveyards in town were moved to the main cemetery when the land was ready. The cemetery grew to about 38 acres with 20,000 burials, some dating back to the 1700s.

"It's so sad," Neuman said of the destruction. Given the ages of most of the stones, "it's possible there are no families left for those people. It's just so sad to see. I don't know what would motivate anybody to do that."

Copyright 2012 - The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.